Tag Archives: fantasy

Princess Madeline and the Dragon Blog Tour

25 Jan

Princess Madeline and the Dragon - Tour Button - 3 Kirstin Pulioff

About the Book

Title: Princess Madeline and the Dragon (Princess Madeline Trilogy, Book #3)

Author: Kirstin Pulioff

Publication Date: November 26, 2013

Publisher: Caliburn Books

Number of pages: 135

Recommended age: 10+

Summary

After a season of battle and rebuilding, the Kingdom of Soron is exhausted. With the return of the exiled wizards, the Spring Faire, and her upcoming wedding, Princess Madeline is looking forward to a peaceful season of celebration. When the mysterious green dragon reappears, threatening the kingdom and the king, Princess Madeline and Prince Braden won’t rest for long. Faced with this incredible new danger, Princess Madeline and Prince Braden must find a way to lead their kingdom and secure their future. Can they find the answers hidden within their mother’s cryptic messages from the past, or will the dragon destroy everything they hold dear? Follow Princess Madeline as she embarks on a dangerous new adventure to save her kingdom and her family.

My Review

To be frank, after I read the second book, I wasn’t sure I wanted to finish the series. I felt like that book would have been more aptly titled “Prince Paulsen’s Epic Temper Tantrum.” The story fell flat for me. Fortunately, Princess Madeline and the Dragon wasn’t just better–it’s the strongest book in the series.

The writing was far tighter than the previous two books–in terms of both plotting and editing. It was nice to see all of these clues that had been dropped through the previous books all finally come together. There was less purple prose, more character development, and wider scope. In short, Pulioff really hit her writing stride.

It was nice to see some character development in some of the secondary characters. Braden finally had a chance to shine–and the audience got to see him grow from an uncertain prince to a strong leader. Elias was given an even more prominent role, which I enjoyed. Princess Madeline is alright, but I was always most intrigued by the wizards. Even Sophia was given more agency; instead of just being Braden’s kissing partner and Madeline’s maidservant, she had the opportunity to make decisions for herself.

Which connects to why this was my favorite book of the series: it wasn’t all about Princess Madeline this time. She was still the protagonist, of course. But there was so much more going on–history, decoding prophecy, transitions, dragons. There was more at stake than who Princess Madeline would have to marry. And that made me feel more invested in the outcome.

I’ve decided to give the final book 4 stars. It has an engaging story, good world-building, and dynamic characters. Even though I’m not personally a big fan of romance, I think that it’s written in a way that will appeal to middle grade girls. I also appreciate that Daniel is never rude or condescending or otherwise engaging in misogynistic behavior–it’s a refreshing change from heroines falling for the arrogant show-off or the “misunderstood bad boy.” If there’s got to be romance in the story, I’m thankful that it’s modeling a healthy relationship to girls.

And Now For a Guest Post from the Author

Princess Perfect

When you think about fairy tales, what stands out most? The charming story-line, the medieval settings, the magical elements and enchantments? For me, the beauty of the fairy tale revolves around the princess. Pretty, perfect, sweet and demure, the princesses of traditional fairy tales have problems that need to be solved. Maybe it’s something with their sweet nature, or the simple desire for good to triumph, but I am easily swept up in the journey to find that happily ever after.

Let’s take a look at some of our favorite princesses and what makes them so memorable.

Snow White is considered the perfect princess. She is unassuming in her demeanor, sweet, calm, and naïve. Her dreams of love are inspiring, and her gestures of kindness make everyone love her and protect her in return. This is a story about love conquering all.

Cinderella is another classic tale. This is the perfect rags to riches story, as a normal girl finds her Prince. Growing up neglected and abused, it is amazing that she remained as sweet natured as she was. She’s proof that friendship is everywhere around you, even in the animals, and that dreams can come true.

Ariel is one of my favorites. I loved The Little Mermaid for many reasons, but especially for its turn away from the “perfect princess.” This story is an example of teenage rebellion at its finest. Ariel still stands out as beautiful, talented, and royal… but she is also spoiled, disobedient, and headstrong. She shows you how following your heart comes with risks but also the greatest rewards.

Princess Madeline is a modern take on the traditional fairy tale. While she certainly has some traits similar to the other princesses, beauty, charm, and strength, she also has a bit of rebellion and stubbornness thrown in. Balancing a blend of hard and soft qualities, Princess Madeline finds a way to show both strength and vulnerability as she learns lessons about growing up, the dynamics of relationships (family, friend, and love), and finds her inner strength.

So, if you like Disney princesses (and who doesn’t)*, and are looking for a new book, then Princess Madeline series may be a good choice for you.

(* A comment from Destiny: LOL. *raises hand*)

Purchase

Princess Madeline and the Dragon by Kirstin Pulioff

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Smashwords

About the Author: Kirstin Pulioff

Kirstin Pulioff

Kirstin Pulioff

Kirstin Pulioff is a storyteller at heart. Born and raised in Southern California, she moved to the Pacific Northwest to follow her dreams and graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in Forest Management. Happily married and a mother of two, she lives in Oregon, and enjoys being a stay at home mom. When she’s not writing, she is busy with her kids and church.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Goodreads | Amazon Author Page

* $25 Blog Tour Giveaway *

Amazon 25 gift card

Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)

Contest runs: January 13th to January 31st, 11:59 pm, 2014

Open: Internationally

How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Kirstin Pulioff and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.

Click link to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway

Princess Madeline and the Dragon Blog Tour Schedule (2014)

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Dragon Defender

8 Jan

Today’s book review is part of a blog tour. I received a free electronic copy of the book from the publisher, through NetGalley, prior to signing up for the blog tour.

About the Book

Dragon Defender by J.A. BlackburnTitle: Dragon Defender (Dragon Defense League, Book #1)

Author: J.A. Blackburn

Publication Date: October 19, 2013

Publisher: Pip & Grey

Number of pages: 242

Recommended age: 10+

 

Summary (Amazon):

For over a thousand years dragons have existed in secret . . .

Peter Clark can build a robot from scratch and pick a lock in two minutes or less. But he can’t figure out why his mother left or why his grandma refuses to talk about her. When Uncle Dominick shows up on Peter’s twelfth birthday with a letter that hints at answers and an incredible story about dragons, Peter follows him, determined to find out the truth about his mother’s disappearance.

What he finds is a reality far different from what he ever could have imagined – where dragons live in hiding, hunted by poachers for their magical parts, and a small group of men and women work tirelessly to protect them. These are the Dragon Defenders. Peter’s uncle is one. So was his mother. Now it’s Peter’s turn.

* Finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association 2013 Literary Contest *

My Review

Middle grade fiction is best when you start reading and before you know it a couple of hours have gone by and you’re surprised that the book is already over. And that’s basically what happened to me while I was reading this book. It starts off with a pretty cool concept: dragons are real and 12-year old Peter Clark is part of a long line of dragon defenders. This melding of a high fantasy concept with an otherwise realistic present-day world made for fun reading. Rather than spend a lot of time engaged in world building, the author is able to thrust her readers into the action pretty quickly.

The biggest sticking point for me happened pretty early in the book. The issue was that I was a bit skeptical as to how Peter’s non-custodial uncle was able to get him through the border crossing, with seemingly no passport or other documentation. It is mentioned that uncle Dominick has some sort of paperwork–but I don’t see how he could have had anything for Peter. After all, Peter’s legal guardian, his grandmother, didn’t even know he’d left at that point. All of that said, I was able to move past it to enjoy the story.

I would have liked a little more character development in the story. Peter has a fairly well fleshed-out personality, complete with specific talents, interests, and flaws. However, all of the other characters seem pretty one-dimensional. Uncle Dominick is the mysterious, cool grown-up. Xana is the over-enthusiastic girl who acts without thinking. Mario is the poor Mexican orphan who acts as a guide. Even though we spend a lot of time with the latter two as companions to Peter on his adventure, they never get fleshed out much. And they don’t really grow or change during the story.

The dragons living among us hook was a good one, though. I thought that the author did a nice job of building the dragon lore. And I am incredibly interested in the Dragon Defense League–its formation, history, work, other members. These things were only touched on a little–but there were hints that we would learn more in future books. Excellent work, Blackburn. When you’re writing a series, you’ve got to give your readers a reason to come back.

I’m giving this book 3 stars. It was an enjoyable bit of escapism. I think that kids who enjoy fantasy and adventure will like this book quite a lot. Despite my criticisms, I see a lot of potential in this series. First books can be challenging to write–especially if you’ve already started to map out the future for the series. How much is too much to reveal and how much is not enough? This book didn’t hit that perfect balance–but it still hooked me in.

Purchase

Amazon (Print) | Amazon (Kindle)

About the Author: J.A. Blackburn

J.A. Blackburn, Author

J.A. Blackburn

J. A. Blackburn lives in Seattle, Washington in a small white house overlooking the sea with her husband, Jason, her son, Camden, and their dog, Bella. Dragon Defender is her first novel.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

 

* $50 Blog Tour Giveaway *

Amazon $50 Gift Card

Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)

Contest runs: January 6th to January 31, 11:59 pm, 2014

Open: Internationally

How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, J.A. Blackburn and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.

Click this link to enter: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dragon Defender - Blog Tour Button  J.A. Blackburn

Dragon Defender Blog Tour Schedule (2014)

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Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

30 Dec

Today’s book review is for Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee, with illustrations by Yoko Tanaka, published by Random House. It is scheduled for release on January 28, 2014. I received a free electronic copy of this book from the published, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy book cover

In this beautiful retelling of “The Snow Queen” we meet unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard, who only believes in things that can be explained by science. She’s a bright, asthmatic girl who has recently lost her mother. When her father is requested to set up a special sword exhibit at a museum, he brings Ophelia and her older sister, Alice, along with him–with the hope that a Christmas vacation to a beautiful city will provide the whole family with a distraction from their loss. While exploring the museum, Ophelia discovers a hidden doorway, behind which a boy is imprisoned. As she works to rescue him, she must reconcile her beliefs with the fanciful stories the boy tells her and the strange things she begins to see in the museum. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a modern day fairy tale that explores themes of friendship, courage, love, and never giving up.

I loved the protagonist, Ophelia. She felt like such a real character, with an authentic personality. She has so much curiosity, but it’s tempered by both skepticism and fear. A lot of young people are still open to the possibilities of things that can’t be explained–but not Ophelia. She’s already joined the Children’s Science Society. Even when presented with things she can’t explain, she tries to convince herself that she’s not witnessing magic. I also liked how the recent loss of her mother impacted her. It added a nice dynamic to the story.

I also enjoyed the narrative structure with its story-within-a-story framework. The shift between the present day of our world and the story of the Marvelous Boy’s journey kept things interesting. In particular, I liked that the Boy’s story wasn’t revealed all at once–but rather unfolded as his friendship with Ophelia developed. At the same time, the pieces are long enough that you can get caught up in it. It creates a pacing that alternates between the pressure of deadline facing Ophelia and the many years of the Boy’s journey.

The museum setting was perfect. Museums already have a feeling of mystery. Some are so vast as to feel like mazes, and it’s easy to imagine getting lost in one, even if it wasn’t magical. It also provided a mirror to the intellectual conflict of Ophelia. A museum is usually a place of science, learning, and rational thought–and yet this one contains things that cannot be explained by logic.

If you’re looking for an engaging fantasy novel that’s perfect for late elementary or middle grade readers, look no further. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is an excellent way to fight off cabin fever this February. I’m giving it an enthusiastic 5 stars for the way that it explores family relationships, friendship, and self-discovery all within the vehicle of a modern fairy tale.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

The Queen and the Nobody Boy

26 Dec

Today’s book review is for The Queen and the Nobody Boy, by Barbara Else, published by Gecko Press. I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

The Queen and the Nobody Boy book cover

Hodie is an unpaid odd-jobs boy working at the royal palace of Fontania. One day, he decides that he’s finally had enough and strikes out to the south to start his new life. The problem is, he has a tag-along: 12-year old Queen Sibilla, who is tired of all the gossip about her magical abilities (or lack thereof). She decides that the two of them must reclaim the sack of junk taken from Hodie by visiting dignitaries from neighboring Um’Binnia, even though Hodie doesn’t really care about recovering it. He’d rather go off on his own. But no matter how hard he tries to go off to his new life in the south, Hodie can’t seem to shake the little Queen. Instead he’ll brave new dangers, discover secrets, eat bizarre food, and aid rebellion to save Fontania–and discover himself.

The Queen and the Nobody Boy is a lively modern adventure fairy tale for children ages 10 and up. Else’s narrative style reminds me a bit of Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket. There’s a real playfulness to her language. It’s not just that she’s produced a compelling story, but that she’s also managed to tell it in a style that sucks you in. In many middle grades and young adult novels, the narrative prose is secondary to the story. Typically the only time I really notice it is when it’s not terribly good. In this case, I noticed because it was so refreshingly fun to read.

I also loved the world-building in this book. There’s a lot that you’d expect–palaces and gowns and pouches of gold. But there is a lot that is unexpected and whimsical, as well. There are magical dragon eagles in Fontania, who can talk to a select group of people. Um’Binnia is full amazing inventions, most notably their windtrains–which are innovative and sometimes terrifying. There are strange places with deadly obstacles, such as bridges that can spike you or the caverns where the wind trains travel. There are elaborately moustached men. There’s even a royal swear word (but you’ll have to look in the end notes to discover what exactly it is.) In short, you’ve never visited a literary world quite like this before.

When I was about two thirds of the way through the book, I was looking up something about the author and discovered that this was the second book written about Fontania. If I hadn’t stumbled upon it, I never would have known from reading the book. Which, if you think about it, is pretty impressive. That’s because anything you need to know for the story to make sense is right there, in the book. There’s absolutely no assumption that the audience is familiar with the history of Fontania. So, don’t let that little bit of knowledge stop you from jumping in.

Do you ever get so caught up in a book that you feel compelled to tell your partner or other family members about new plot twists as you’re reading? That’s how I was with this book. I even paraphrased it for my 2-year old when she wanted me to tell her a story. Is it any wonder that I’m giving it 5 stars? I hope that other kids and kids-at-heart will share in my joy of journeying through this strange world with young Hodie and the rest.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

Princess Madeline Book Blast and Giveaway

18 Dec

Today’s book review is for The Escape of Princess Madeline, by Kirstin Pulioff, published by Caliburn Books. The review is being posted as part of a book blast organized by Mother Daughter Book Promotion Services. I received free electronic copies of the books from the tour organizer so that I could write honest reviews. Next month I will be participating in a blog tour for the third book in the trilogy, so keep watching my blog.

About the Book

The Escape of Princess Madeline by Kirstin PulioffTitle: The Escape of Princess Madeline (Princess Madeline Trilogy, Book #1) Author: Kirstin Pulioff Publication Date: November 4, 2012 Publisher: Caliburn Books Number of pages: 138 Recommended age: 10+

Summary: The Kingdom of Soron is known for many things, its rolling landscape, haunting history, fiery sunsets, and its beautiful princess. Princess Madeline woke on her sixteenth birthday to realize that her future had been planned out, a life full of privilege, royalty, and boredom… a life with a husband and knight champion that she did not choose. Using her charm, strength and stubbornness, she defies the King at every turn, determined to keep her freedom on her terms.

Freedom quickly turns to disaster as she finds herself seized by a group of wandering bandits. With the kingdom in turmoil over her capture, her Knight Champion is eager to prove himself, a group of dedicated suitors are determined to win her hand, and a group of exiled wizards join forces in the hunt to rescue her. Follow Princess Madeline in this adventure full of twists and turns as she tries to find her freedom and answers to her questions about life and love.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Smashwords

My Review

I was interested in the series, because I love books that feature strong, determined heroines. Pulioff delivered. Princess Madeline is a fun character. She’s got her own ideas on what she wants out of life and she’s not going to let her father (or anyone else) tell her what to do. However, like a typical teenager, she doesn’t always think things through. When she decides to leave the castle she is ill-prepared for life outside the walls. She gives away all of her gold almost immediately. She doesn’t know how to find food efficiently. She can’t really build a fire on her own. And she doesn’t even know how to defend herself. This short-sightedness was one of the things that made me like Princess Madeline so much. A lot of heroines end up being so amazing that they’re almost unbelievable. On the other hand, I think that middle grade readers will be able to relate to Princess Madeline–while recognizing all of her flaws.

The plot was fairly basic, but appropriate for middle grade readers. I think it has just the right amount of action, intrigue and romance to keep tweens interested without getting bogged down in too many details. The pacing is great. The story keeps moving forward, even when the characters are having internal monologues.

My primary complaint was that the editing was pretty sloppy. There were a lot of typos in the text and a couple of sticky grammar points. Hopefully these issues will be corrected in new editions. Even though they didn’t ruin the book for me, there were enough that it distracted me at times. I wasn’t sold on the insta-love element, either. But love at first sight is a fairly common trope in fairy tales and fantasy, so I was able to accept it for what it was.

Other than that, it’s a good middle grades fantasy adventure. There are balls and tournaments and wizards and bandits–all the things that make fantasy fun. There’s also some great foreshadowing for the future books in the series. I’m particularly curious about what role the wizards will play, and what it was that Princess Madeline’s mother “sacrificed” herself for. If you have a middle grader who is looking to escape into a medieval-style fantasy, this 4 star book is certainly worth consideration.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

About the Other Books

The Battle for Princess Madeline by Kirstin PulioffTitle: The Battle for Princess Madeline (Princess Madeline Trilogy, Book #2) Author: Kirstin Pulioff Publication Date: May 21, 2013 Publisher: Caliburn Books Number of pages: 159 Recommended age: 10+

Summary: The Kingdom of Soron bustled with activity as preparations for the Fall Festival began. Lively merchants, hardworking farmers, and musicians eagerly awaited this event of harvest and joy. This year’s festival was even more important; it was to celebrate Princess Madeline’s betrothal to her knight champion, Daniel. Celebration quickly turns to disaster, though, as Prince Paulsen returns with curious demands: either Princess Madeline will be his, or no ones’. Rejection turns to obsession and battle is declared.

In a tense struggle to decide her future, Princess Madeline must choose where to put her trust… in the king’s tried and true plan, the wizards’ cryptic messages and maps, or her own sense of bravery. Follow Princess Madeline on this adventure as she battles evil in an attempt to create a future of love and magic.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Smashwords

Princess Madeline and the Dragon by Kirstin PulioffTitle: Princess Madeline and the Dragon (Princess Madeline Trilogy, Book #3) Author: Kirstin Pulioff Publication Date: November 26, 2013 Publisher: Caliburn Books Number of pages: 135 Recommended age: 10+

Summary: After a season of battle and rebuilding, the Kingdom of Soron is exhausted. With the return of the exiled wizards, the Spring Faire, and her upcoming wedding, Princess Madeline is looking forward to a peaceful season of celebration. When the mysterious green dragon reappears, threatening the kingdom and the king, Princess Madeline and Prince Braden won’t rest for long. Faced with this incredible new danger, Princess Madeline and Prince Braden must find a way to lead their kingdom and secure their future. Can they find the answers hidden within their mother’s cryptic messages from the past, or will the dragon destroy everything they hold dear? Follow Princess Madeline as she embarks on a dangerous new adventure to save her kingdom and her family.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Smashwords

About the Author: Kirstin Pulioff

Kirstin Pulioff

Kirstin Pulioff

Kirstin Pulioff is a storyteller at heart. Born and raised in Southern California, she moved to the Pacific Northwest to follow her dreams and graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in Forest Management. Happily married and a mother of two, she lives in Oregon, and enjoys being a stay at home mom. When she’s not writing, she is busy with her kids and church.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Goodreads | Amazon Author Page

* $25 Book Blast Giveaway *

Prize: $25Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)

Contest runs: December 18, 2013 to January 16, 2014, 11:59 pm, 2013

Open: Internationally

How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter link below.

Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Kirstin Pulioff and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

MDBR Book Promotion Services

Defy

11 Dec

Today’s book review is for Defy, by Sara B. Larson, published by Scholastic. It is scheduled to be released January 7, 2014. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Defy book cover

Defy is a thrilling YA fantasy debut from Sara B. Larson. It follows young fighter Alexa Hollen, who must disguise herself as a boy, Alex, when raiders come to her village and kill her parents. Alex and her twin brother, Marcel, work their way into the palace guard for Prince Damian of Antion. It’s not easy hiding her true identity, but she’s doing pretty good. That is, until a powerful sorcerer breaks into the palace and turns things upside down. Alex, her fellow guard Rylan, and Prince Damian are abducted and transported to a neighboring enemy kingdom. Amidst all of this, Alex’s true identity is found out–and she finds herself faced with Ryland and Damian both vying for her affections. Soon she discovers that she’s not the only one harboring dangerous secrets, and not everything is as it seems in the kingdoms. Will she have the strength to sort out her feelings and save the kingdom before it’s too late? Only time will tell.

I’ve long loved stories of women who feel compelled to live the lives of men. Part of it is because the women are able to demonstrate that, despite social opinion to the contrary, women are every bit as capable as men. Another part is the tension that it creates. As the audience is in on the secret, we can see the dangers threatening to expose our protagonist lurking around every corner. Moreover, we can laugh at the awkward moments and mis-communication that occur as the true identity struggles to assert itself once more (sometimes subconsciously) despite all the risks. Larson was able to deliver all of these things in her story. It was a real treat to see a female protagonist who was so strong, courageous and quick-witted, but also vulnerable and plagued with uncertainty.

Although the character development was strong, what I really enjoyed were the interpersonal dynamics between the characters. There was complexity there. Loyalty to a fellow guardsmen can overcome personal competition. Enemies can become allies, but maybe not friends. Love, no matter how strong, doesn’t have to be acted upon. It was refreshing to see so much nuance and ambiguity in the relationships between characters. People are complex. It felt true to life.

I also loved that even though the love triangle is a major storyline in the novel, there is still a lot of action. There are thrilling battles, ingenious escapes, and troubling treks through the jungle. For readers who don’t feel invested in the romance element, the political plot is equally engaging–and even more complex. The world that Larson has created is fascinating, broad and deep.

Once I started reading this book, I couldn’t put it down. I stayed up into the wee hours of the night because I jut had to know what was going to happen. My biggest disappointment is that now I’m going to have to wait for a sequel. For that reason, I’m giving it 5 out of 5 stars. If you’re looking for a gripping fantasy with a side of love triangle, you should definitely consider picking up this book. It won’t disappoint.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

We’re Back, and with a Book Blast, too!

9 Dec

It has been a busy couple of weeks for my family. Besides Thanksgiving and Hanukkah festivities, we also moved across state to Downeast Maine. Moving is simultaneously exciting and draining, so besides unpacking and settling in, I’ve not had the energy to do much else. However, now that most of the boxes are unpacked–I’m ready to get back to posting content. I’ve got some new ideas in the works, too. Lots to look forward to!

Don’t forget that I’ve still got a giveaway open for a hardcover copy of The Severed Tower. Information can be found here.

And today, I’d like to tell you about another book, this one for middle grade readers. It’s called Dragon Defender, and I’m reading it right now. Next month I’ll be reviewing it as part of a blog tour. But for now, I will say that I’ve been hooked into the story and I’m excited to see how it will unfold. So, keep reading to find out more about it–and at the end, there’s a link to a $50 giveaway!

About the Book

Dragon Defender by J.A. BlackburnTitle: Dragon Defender (Dragon Defense League, Book #1)

Author: J.A. Blackburn

Publication Date: October 19, 2013

Publisher: Pip & Grey

Number of pages: 242

Recommended age: 10+

 

 

 

Summary (Amazon):

For over a thousand years dragons have existed in secret . . .

Peter Clark can build a robot from scratch and pick a lock in two minutes or less. But he can’t figure out why his mother left or why his grandma refuses to talk about her. When Uncle Dominick shows up on Peter’s twelfth birthday with a letter that hints at answers and an incredible story about dragons, Peter follows him, determined to find out the truth about his mother’s disappearance.

What he finds is a reality far different from what he ever could have imagined – where dragons live in hiding, hunted by poachers for their magical parts, and a small group of men and women work tirelessly to protect them. These are the Dragon Defenders. Peter’s uncle is one. So was his mother. Now it’s Peter’s turn.

* Finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association 2013 Literary Contest *

 

Purchase

Amazon (Print) | Amazon (Kindle)

 

About the Author: J.A. Blackburn

J.A. Blackburn, Author

J.A. Blackburn

 

J. A. Blackburn lives in Seattle, Washington in a small white house overlooking the sea with her husband, Jason, her son, Camden, and their dog, Bella. Dragon Defender is her first novel.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

 

 

* $50 Book Blast Giveaway *

Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)

Contest runs: December 8, 2013 to January 6, 2014, 11:59 pm, 2013

Open: Internationally

How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, J.A. Blackburn and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.
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The Severed Tower: Review and Giveaway

26 Nov

Today’s book review is for The Severed Tower, by J. Barton Mitchell, published by St. Martin’s Press. I received this book directly from the publisher, for free, in exchange for an honest review. I also received an extra copy, which I’ll be giving away in a raffle. Keep reading after the review for details on how to enter to win.

The Severed Tower book cover

The Severed Tower is the second novel in J. Barton Mitchell’s Conquered Earth series. Earlier this month, I reviewed the first book of the series, Midnight City. The second installment didn’t let me down.

The book picks up with Holt, Mira, Zoey and Max journeying to the the Severed Tower in the center of the Strange Lands so that Zoey can fulfill the prophecy revealed to her by the Oracle. They know that reaching the tower will be difficult, but it proves to be more than they expected. To begin with, the Strange Lands, a dangerous region where the laws of physics don’t always apply, seems to be expanding. Then, the Assembly aliens, who usually avoid the Strange Lands, continue their pursuit of Zoey. At the same time, the pirate group that has a bounty on Holt arrives on the scene. And as the team gets closer to the tower, Zoey grows progressively weaker. Fortunately they’ll find unexpected help along the way: Mira’s old Freebooter associates, the White Helix (a cult that reveres the Strange Lands), a reluctant Menagerie team, and even a mysterious Assembly walker who has been stripped of its colors. Will it be enough? Holt and Mira don’t know, but they’re willing to sacrifice everything to ensure that Zoey reaches the Severed Tower–not just to fulfill their promise to her, but because they’re starting to believe that she just might be the key to overthrowing the Assembly once and for all.

As before, Mitchell has crafted an action-packed novel that keeps you on your toes from beginning to end. Since that was one of the things I loved about Midnight City, I was pleased to see that the pacing didn’t suffer from the sequel slump. Instead, he presented even more sources of danger to keep readers on the edge of their seat. I especially loved the introduction of the Anomalies in the Strange Lands, which were presented as puzzles that could kill. They definitely added a new level of suspense, especially since their appearance was unpredictable.

I also liked how Holt and Mira were forced to confront their pasts–and how it brought old weaknesses and self-doubt to the surface. They could easily have ridden high on the confidence of their victory at Midnight City. Instead, we were given more opportunity to see complex emotions and character development. By introducing people from their pasts, Mitchell also provided the audience a window onto why they behave as they do. And I especially liked the parallel development, that Holt and Mira are both confronting their issues at the same time.

Most of all, I enjoyed getting some more points of view in the narration. The first book was mostly from the perspective of Holt and Mira. Technically, this one might have been, too. However, this time we got much more from Zoey, as well as sections told from the perspective of the Assembly Hunter, Avril (from the White Helix), and an Assembly walker called “Ambassador”. This inclusion of more perspectives helped to flesh out Mitchell’s Conquered Earth world even more.

There were a couple of minor issues with the book. First, there were some flashback chapters that I found a bit jarring. The first time that I encountered one, I wasn’t sure what was going on–if it was the result of a Strange Lands anomaly or what. They could have been set up a little more effectively, so that readers didn’t have to expend so much energy trying to figure it out (since there are so many more interesting things to speculate about). Second, I was a little unsure about how well the book stands alone. As someone who enthusiastically read and enjoyed the first novel in the series, I was able to follow along with no problem. Names, place, and terms specific to the series were already familiar. I do think that people who haven’t read the first book will be able to read and enjoy this one; I just wonder if it might be a bit confusing at times. It’s always a challenging situation, though. Too much rehashing alienates established fans, too little alienates new readers.

Overall, I loved it. I’m a fan of the blending of dystopia, sci-fi and fantasy elements. I like the themes of alien invasion, survival, friendship, social organization, and morality. It’s not only one of the most unique stories I’ve read, it’s also one of the most exciting. The Severed Tower earns 4 stars and my enthusiastic encouragement that you get out there and read it, so I have someone with whom to discuss it!

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads. And, if you have a US or Canadian shipping address, you can enter to win a copy of your very own!

Click the following link to find out how to enter: a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Dragon’s Boy

19 Nov

Today’s book review is for The Dragon’s Boy, by Jane Yolen, published by Open Road Integrated Media. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

The Dragon's Boy book cover

The Dragon’s Boy is a classic Jane Yolen book for middle grade readers, reissued as an ebook. It tells the story of young Artos Pendragon–better known as King Arthur. Artos is a foster child in the castle of Sir Ector, and the youngest of the boys who reside there. He often feels left out and overlooked. But when he stumbles upon a cave and finds a wise old dragon, things begin to change for him. This beautiful coming of age story is full of magic and wisdom that will capture the minds and imaginations of young readers.

Yolen does an amazing job of setting the scene of ancient Britain. She combines the mundane with the magical to create a place and time that feels very real, without getting bogged down in details. Readers are given just enough information to construct a picture in their mind. As a fan of Arthurian legend, I liked that some aspects of her world were comfortable and familiar, while others were fresh and new. This is always the best way to handle things when dealing with beloved old tales.

I also enjoyed the way she developed the characters. Although the names she uses aren’t the ones with which most readers would be familiar–they’re close enough that even the un-savvy should be able to figure out who is who. And it’s nice to see how these familiar knights may have behaved in adolescence. They weren’t perfect, and yet, despite their arrogance and immaturity, we know that all will grow up to be exemplary men.

My primary complaint with the book is that the ending felt rushed and unsatisfying. It was a reasonable ending and it made sense. But it felt like it came too soon. Maybe part of the problem is knowing that the Arthurian cycle is rich with stories. Another part is that I wanted to see how Artos’s relationship with the other boys would grow and change once he discovers the secret of the dragon. And of course, there’s the bit where the ending just feels like a beginning.

Overall, I think this would be a nice book to introduce younger readers to the Arthurian legend. Artos is a protagonist that tweens and early adolescents should be able to relate to and sympathize with. Although, if they are already reading fantasy, they might find it a bit short compared to other books they’ve encountered. In final analysis I give it 3 out of 5 stars. I liked reading it, but it could have been better.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

Shadow of Atlantis Blog Tour and Giveaway

25 Oct

Today’s book review is for the Shadow of Atlantis, from the Shadows of the Past series by Wendy Leighton-Porter, published by Mauve Square Publishing. I received an electronic copy of the book from Renee at Mother Daughter Book Reviews, so I could participate in the blog tour. Keep reading after the review for more information about the tour–and to enter the giveaway!

Shadow of Atlantis Cover

The Shadow of Atlantis is a fantasy adventure story for middle grade readers. The parents of 10-year old twins Jemima and Joe disappeared under mysterious circumstances. When the twins decide to check out their parents’ treasured book one rainy afternoon, they discover something amazing–the book is able to transport them through time and space. Joe, Jemima, their friend Charlie, and their cat Max end up traveling to Atlantis. They befriend a girl and her family, and soon decide that they must warn the Atlanteans that their island home is doomed to fall into the sea. Then, while trying to help organize an exodus, the twins discover that their parents had been to Atlantis as well–and that not all residents of the island are friendly to guests. Can they save their new friends and escape back to their own world in time?

Leighton-Porter has crafted a creative tale with this book. I enjoyed the way that it melded elements of pure fantasy with historical research. The magical book, key, and translation charms were all clever plot devices–although I do hope that we’ll learn more about what they are and where they came from in future books. But I was willing to overlook their convenience, because of window they offered on history. Even though there has never been any evidence that Atlantis was a real place, Leighton-Porter draws on real artifacts and history from the region and period to give children insight into what life would have been like in Ancient Greek civilization. From lack of indoor plumbing to animal sacrifice, she brings the past to life for her readers.

One of the biggest flaws with the book is that it gets off to a weak start. The writing in the opening is plodding and clunky. The sentences have too many clauses. There are too many modifiers. It’s hard to adjust to the constantly shifting point of view–because while I’m used to reading third person narration, I’m less used to being able to read the internal monologue of every character in a story. Worst of all, the first chapter has no real story or plot. The whole thing is exposition! And most of that exposition is comprehensive introductions to all of the major characters.

If you can make it past the first chapter, though, things get better. That’s when the story really begins–and it’s a fun one. It’s got adventure and fantasy and history and mystery all wrapped up together, in a way that I think will engage young readers. I liked that the protagonists were brother and sister, because it provides an “in” to both boys and girls. The more I read, the more I wanted to know what was going to happen. There were plenty of questions to keep me turning the pages.

Ultimately, I give the book 3 out of 5 stars. I liked it. But I would have liked it more if it had pulled me in from the beginning and if the main characters were a little more fleshed out. I recognize it’s fairly typical for genre fiction to focus on plot and sometimes neglect character development–but there are writers who manage to do both. Still, I think that kids will enjoy the magic and adventure. They’ll probably like the talking cat, too.


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